Building lean muscles is a considerably difficult undertaking that requires serious commitment, unwavering determination and lots of patience. Determined by numerous factors such as training age, genetics, muscle memory and hormone profile, muscle growth is typically a delicate process that requires the right exercises, consistent training and smart eating. And the process is even trickier for those who want to bulk up quickly. Nevertheless, by mastering the basic requirements for muscle growth, you can get more curvaceous calves, enhance your chest or achieve any muscle-building goal quickly. Here are 15 tips for building muscles fast.
Jumpstart muscle building by exercising big muscle groups
According to several studies, exercising big muscle groups such as the chest, back and leg muscles is the best way to jumpstart the muscle building process if you want to achieve bigger muscle gains faster. Ideally, you should exercise these muscle groups at least once a week and design your workout routine to favor thorough working on each group. For example, instead of working out 3 times a day training 2 body parts, you should spread your workout to 6 days training only 1 body part per day in order to put more stress on common muscle groups (such as triceps and biceps) and compel your body to generate more muscle fibers quickly.
Subject your muscles to heavy loads
Muscles grow faster when their fibers are subjected to tear by exposing them to external forces that they are not used to. Hence, unless your work involves heavy manual labor (jobs like construction and moving), you need to use dumbbells, barbells and weightlifting machines to accelerate the rate of growth of your muscles. Preferably, you should lift loads in the range of 8-12 repetitions per set, engage in 3-8 sets per exercise, and use loads that cause muscle failure at the end of every set. Such heavy loads will tear muscle fibers and stimulate faster growth than loads that allow you to complete each set without muscle failure. You can handle heavier loads by working with a partner or by stopping to rest for a few seconds and resuming when you can lift the loads with good form.
Muscles become complacent and stop growing when exposed to the same load over time. Therefore, it is important to keep changing the weight you lift in order to achieve progressive muscle gain. For instance, after using 100 pounds for your first week’s bench press, you should try to add 10 pounds for week 2, another 10 pounds for week 3 and so on to guard against muscle complacency. The extra weight will alert your body to produce more muscle fibers in order to keep up with the increasing load, resulting in bigger and stronger muscles with time.
Use multi-joint exercises
If you want to build muscles quickly, single joint movements such as triceps extensions and biceps curls will not work. You need exercises that will work more muscles and allow you to work with much heavier loads in less time. Hence, you should use multi-joint exercises such as deadlifts, cleans, bench pressing and squats to stimulate faster muscle growth.
Avoid cardiovascular exercises
Cardio workouts release catabolic hormones in the body, which break down muscle tissue and are counterproductive. Secondly, cardio exercises burn out significant amounts of calories that would otherwise be used to build muscles. Therefore, if you want to build muscle faster, then you need to limit cardio exercises to brief 2-5 minute warm-ups and concentrate on weight training exercises.
Increase your total daily calorific intake
Your body needs to be in anabolic state in order to gain muscle quickly. You can achieve this by ensuring that your total daily calorific intake is far larger than your daily calorific expenditure. Your body’s calorie needs depend on your weight, gender, age and level of activity, and a simpler way of determining your daily calorific need is to multiply your weight by a factor 10 or 12. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, then you need at least 1200 calories per day (optimal calorific expenditure). To achieve anabolic state from here, you need to add a further 1000-1500 calories to your optimal calorific expenditure, consuming at least 2200 calories per day if you weigh 120 pounds.
Establish healthy eating habits
Building a single pound of muscle requires at least 3,500 extra calories per week. Hence, to achieve muscle growth of 1-2 pounds per week, you need to consume 3,500-7,000 extra calories every week, which comes down to 500-1,000 extra calories per day. Such a huge amount of calories may tempt you into indiscriminate eating as you try to achieve your daily calorie targets, but that would be counterproductive. Instead, make sure to eat healthy foods such as sweet potatoes, avocadoes, coconut milk and grass-fed beef. Equally, instead of 3 meals per day, you need to spread your total calorie intake into several smaller and more frequent meals (at least 6 meals per day) to increase your body insulin levels and rate of muscle gain.
Increase the quantity of protein in your diet
Rapid synthesis of muscle fibers requires plenty of proteins. Protein supplies amino acids which are core building blocks of muscles without which muscle gain is unattainable. But how much protein is enough for quick muscle gain? As a rule, you should consume 1-2 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. Hence, you need at least 200 grams of protein per day if you weigh 200lbs and at least 160 grams of protein per day if you weigh 160lbs. Besides, for better assimilation and absorption, it is recommended that you break your total daily protein intake into smaller servings throughout the day and to consume protein from good sources such as chicken, egg whites, whey, steak and seafood (tuna, salmon, tilapia and prawns).
Never ignore carbohydrates and fats
Carbohydrates are not only a critical fuel for exercises, but also a buffer against the use of proteins as source of energy. Therefore, you need very high supply of carbohydrates in your body so that the excess is stored as glycogen and readily used for energy production instead of proteins. Besides, carbohydrates have a role in secretion of insulin (the body’s most powerful anabolic hormone), formation of adipocytes and gluconeogenesis (protein synthesis). And just like carbohydrates, it is vital to eat good quality fats to accelerate muscle growth. Increased fat intake boosts secretion of testosterone hormone which is essential for muscle gain.
Drink plenty of water
Water is an essential component of the body and a potent testosterone-enhancer. Typically, one pound of muscle contains at least 3 pounds of water. Thus, increased water consumption promotes muscle gain while dehydration reduces muscle size. Similarly, studies have indicated that drinking plenty of water promotes testosterone secretion and boosts muscle gain. For instance, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Psychology, inadequate hydration increases the amount of cortisol in the body, which in turn interferes with muscle gain. On the contrary, drinking plenty of water diminishes cortisol secretion while increasing testosterone response to exercise, resulting in faster muscle gain.
Use the right supplements
Using the right supplements can help you to increase lean muscle tissue quickly. Supplements are not supposed to be your primary source of nutrients but should help you to fill nutritional gaps and supply your body with enough nutrients to accelerate muscle growth. While there are several potent supplements for faster muscle gain, the most important ones you should consider are whey protein, casein protein, nitric oxide, creatine, beta-alanine, glutamine, branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine), and gamma-O natural testosterone booster (for males).
Eat high-quality pre-workout meals
Before you start your workout, it is important to prepare the body by consuming a very good meal. A pre-workout meal supplies the body with the energy to sustain a longer and harder workout. The best pre-workout meal must contain carbohydrates (such as rice and pasta) and good protein. The carbohydrate will take longer to convert to glucose, resulting in consistent blood sugar level; while the protein will maximize muscle gains from the workout.
Eat highly nutritious post-workout meals
After your workout, it is critical to immediately consume a meal rich in fast-burning carbohydrates and protein (ideally 45g protein, 75g carbohydrates for an average body). The protein in the post-workout meal accelerates muscle growth and repair while the carbohydrate will replenish glycogen. Preferably, the meal should be a protein shake coupled with some sugar, but you can achieve a nutritious meal by blending honey, banana and whey protein and adding rice milk, skimmed milk or water to form a shake.
Rest and recover
Building muscles quickly require that they are exposed to heavy loads and strenuous exercises which may damage them severely. If there is no rest between workouts, the muscle damage may become too great to repair. Hence, muscles require a resting period of at least 72 hours between weight training sessions before they can be worked out again. In fact, there should be a complete absence of soreness before a muscle can be exercised again.
In order to allow for adequate rest, you should work a single muscle group per day. For example, you can perform a leg workout on Monday and Thursday, a chest and shoulders workout on Tuesday and Friday, and arms, back and abs exercises on Wednesday and Saturday. And when resting, you need to supply the body with the right nutrients and activities to accelerate recovery and growth. For instance, you can include cold showers, massage therapy, ice baths, breathing exercises, compression clothing and sound sleep in your post-workout recovery routine.
Exposure to frequent high-level stress will deplete your body’s testosterone levels (an anabolic hormone promoting muscle gain) while increasing cortisol levels (a catabolic hormone that damages muscles).Therefore, if you feel that your work, home or school environment is exposing you to frequent stress, you need to first learn relaxation exercises and master effective ways of dealing with the stress before you can begin working on your muscles.